The Weekend Wanderer: 19 December 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


CT book awards“Christianity Today’s 2021 Book Awards” – I always enjoy looking at end-of-the-year book lists, regardless of the source. Christianity Today‘s annual book awards are always worth reading and this year Matt Reynolds, the books editor, offers some commentary on the distinct challenge of staying focused for this year’s selections: “I was determined to preserve a degree of principled detachment from the rush of daily headlines. Our books coverage will always stay attentive to the news cycle—after all, we’re called Christianity Today, not Christianity in General. But even in moments of crisis, we won’t allow a myopic sense of What’s Happening Now to govern our priorities, as though books not speaking directly to the danger at hand are luxuries worth indulging in only after the danger has passed.” You may also enjoy browsing through LitHub’s “https://lithub.com/the-award-winning-novels-of-2020/Award-Winning Novels of 2020.”


Francis Collins Templeton Prize“What NIH chief Francis Collins wants religious leaders to know about the coronavirus vaccines” – “Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, is a physician-geneticist who talks openly about his Christian faith and its compatibility with science. Now he’s on a mission to talk to people of faith about the coronavirus vaccines that are expected to become widely available in 2021. Since the early days of the pandemic, Collins, who watches McLean Presbyterian Church in Northern Virginia services online, has urged churches to avoid holding services indoors and done interviews with religious leaders like theologian N.T. Wright and pastor Timothy Keller on how people can protect themselves. Most recently he spoke with pastor Rick Warren and Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore about the vaccines.”


lloyd jones child“With Faith Like a Child” – From Sally Lloyd-Jones at Comment: “I have the best bosses in all the world and the best possible job. I hate to boast, but it’s true. I work for children. And my job is to write them the best stories I can. One of the perks of the job is the hugs I get from my bosses. And the other great perk? The profound truths they teach me. Here are some of them.”


Henry Osawa Tanner - The Annunciation“A canvas that brings together Heaven and Earth: Henry Ossawa Tanner’s ‘Annunciation'” – From Joynel Fernandez at Aleteia: “Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), the first African-American painter ever to gain international acclaim, treats the classic Annunciation motif in a rather unconventional manner: he reckons the simplicity of the scene, rather than its theatrical recreation. In the intimacy of a chamber, Mary is portrayed as a dark haired Jewish peasant girl, seated at the edge of her couch in a striped crumpled attire. The orderly arrangement of the room, in contrast to her bed, suggests that Mary has suddenly been awakened in the middle of the night.”


toxic social media“Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine: The architecture of the modern web poses grave threats to humanity. It’s not too late to save ourselves” – I quit Facebook and Instagram several years ago after significant reflection, occasional stoppages from social media, and some people close to me leading me to reconsider my online life. I continue to believe that is one of the best decisions I have made in the past several years, not only because of algorithmic manipulation and information privacy, but because I came to see I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be. Here is Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic making a slightly similar but more forceful argument not for personal disengagement, but for a widespread awareness and recalibration about the damage caused by the megascale at any cost mindset of social media.


Stuart and Jill Briscoe“At 90, renowned Elmbrook pastor Stuart Briscoe is still living for God — while living with cancer” – Here’s a little local color from Milwaukee, where Stuart Briscoe, evangelist and Pastor Emeritus at Elmbrook Church, recently celebrated 90 years. This is a wonderful article in the Journal-Sentinel about Stuart and his wife, Jill, reflecting on their ministry over many years, with quite a bit of input from family, friends, and congregants. Eastbrook, where I serve as Senior Pastor, was the first of Elmbrook’s church plants just over forty years ago.


Music: Andrew Peterson, “Matthew’s Begats,” from Behold the Lamb of God

The Weekend Wanderer: 5 December 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Advent“Oh How We Need Advent (This Year More Than Most)” – A friend shared this article with me and I found it very beautiful, heart-rending, honest, and joyful all at the same time. Advent is one of my favorite seasons of the year. It so so much more than a preparation for Christmas. I appreciate the way that the author, E. M. Welcher, brings together the anticipatory longing and much-needed hope of Advent so powerfully.


harvest-wheat-farmer-hand“On Being Grateful” – Thanksgiving was just a short time ago, but our need for gratitude in relation to our lives is ever-present. We know gratitude is important, but it is also not natural for us. Particularly in a year that has come to be considered one of the worst years of our lifetimes, how do we live with gratitude? Kevin Williamson wrestles with this question, touching upon memory, gratitude, suffering, and the distinctly Christian response to it all.


9 nonobvious conversation“Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations: The art of making connection even in a time of dislocation” – I’m increasingly convinced that the inability to have conversations—to truly listen to and speak with (not listen past and talk at) one another—is one of the biggest problems of our day. Here is David Brooks’ nine ways to help improve that: “After all we’ve been through this year, wouldn’t it be nice, even during a distanced holiday season, to be able to talk about this whole experience with others, in a deep, satisfying way? To help, I’ve put together a list of nonobvious lessons for how to have better conversations, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself.”


relationship ending“‘Covid ended our marriage’: The couples who split in the pandemic” – Relational strain during the pandemic is surging, particularly in marriages, as this piece from the BBC highlights. It seems like strains or difficulties that were already present have been heightened and new challenges have emerged because of the unique situation of lockdowns, children at home for schooling, job changes or loss, and so much more. The importance of reaching out for help (such as to a counselor or local church), learning to talk well together (see the previous article by David Brooks or this one on active listening), assessing your relationship, and accessing other resources is more important than ever.


books“A Year of Reading: 2020 by John Wilson” – At First Things, John Wilson offers his characteristic wide-ranging list of recommendations for reading from the past year. While I have read a couple of the books on Wilson’s list, I found many curiosities and treasures to explore, from fiction to poetry to memoir to natural history and more. If you’re looking for something to read during the long winter, Wilson’s recommendations will likely have something for you.


Indonesia SA attacks“Indonesia attacks: Army hunts suspected militants over Christian murders” – Religious persecution is not a thing of the past. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who suffer. “The Indonesian army has deployed a special force to hunt for suspected Islamic State-linked militants behind a deadly attack on Christians. Four Salvation Army members were killed – one of them beheaded – in an ambush on Sulawesi island on Friday. Intolerance against Indonesia’s Christian minority has been rising as the Muslim-majority country battles Islamist militancy. A church body denounced the killings as terrorism rather than a religious feud.”


Music: Chabros Music, “Come Worship Christ

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 24 October 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


policies-persons-and-paths-to-ruin-kw3ndwdf-7d312cf67d6382959ed12b355aab78f7“Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin: Pondering the Implications of the 2020 Election” – John Piper, Pastor Emeritus at Bethlehem Baptist Church, set of a mild Twitter-storm when this article released because of sections like this: “this is a long-overdue article attempting to explain why I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.” Or this: “When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exalting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world. He points his nation to destruction. Destruction of more kinds than we can imagine. It is naive to think that a man can be effectively pro-life and manifest consistently the character traits that lead to death — temporal and eternal.” While I may disagree with certain aspects of Piper’s theology, I was encouraged by his words here that show his consistency over the years (as opposed to other evangelical leaders who have changed their approach from one President to the next) and keep us rooted in the Word of God and kingdom citizenship.


Nigeria conflict“Deaths From Nigeria Protests Now 56 With Crackdown, Amnesty Says” – We are not the only nation dealing with conflict related to political and social tensions. Nigeria, one of the most stable and robust nations in sub-Saharan Africa has trembled with protests related to police brutality in the country’s largest city, Lagos. Please pray for this situation in Nigeria, which Amnesty International now says has resulted in 56 deaths. “‘Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters,’ Isa Sanusi, a spokesman for the group in Nigeria, said in an emailed statement. ‘In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests.'”


Diane Langberg“Today’s Crises Have Multiplied and Exposed Trauma: How Will the Church Respond?” – One of my biggest concerns as we head into the winter of this pandemic is how we deal with mental health challenges in this time. Diane Langberg speaks directly to that pressing challenge: “We are living in times of trauma, surrounded by confusion, threats and unrest. The COVID-19 pandemic and outcries against racial injustice profoundly impact our world, our nation, our churches, our neighborhoods and our homes. It is disruptive and unsettling. And if we’re honest, we feel vulnerable. In fact, we are vulnerable. But the threats are not merely external. We face internal threats as well. Many are anxious or depressed or grieving. Others are full of anger. There is no end in sight.”


man-2125123_1280-690x450“Bioethics must recognize ‘we are made for love and friendship,’ scholar argues” – At last part of the reason we are struggling with trauma these days is the radical changes to our relationships. This is not just an accident of human experience but a vital part of how we are made. Because God is a relational Being, He has made humans as relational beings as well. O. Carter Snead, Professor of Law and Director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, argues for something similar in his his new book, What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics. In contrast to the prevailing hyper-individualized approach to ethics which downplays the body in relation to personal decisions, Snead calls for a recovery of the significance of embodiment in anthropology and in the realm of bioethics. This interview with Charles C. Camosy for Crux gives some insight into the direction of his argument.


Azerbaijan Armenia reconciliation“Turks and Armenians Reconcile in Christ. Can Azeris Join Them?” – The recent tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijin over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has captured our attention recently, but has a long history. When there is a long history of pain and tension, is it possible for reconciliation of relationship to happen? Jayson Casper reports on this helpful parallel of the relational healing that occurred between Turks and Armenians as an example of what could happen for Azeris and Armenians. May God help us.


Thomas Howard“Died: Thomas Howard, Author Who Said ‘Evangelical Is Not Enough'” – Thomas Howard passed away this past week. He was one of the evangelicals who walked the Canterbury Trail to Anglicanism and eventually swam the Tiber to become Roman Catholic. He told the tale in several books, most notable Evangelical Is Not Enough and Lead, Kindly Light. Along the way, Howard left us a treasure of historic recovery of liturgy and a beautiful engagement with literature that is a wonderful legacy.


Music: The Fearless Flyers, “Assassin.”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 10 October 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


read aloud“Why you should read this out loud” – When our children were young we began reading aloud to them even when they were babies, inspired by the work of Jim Trelease and Gladys Hunt. As they grew older we found that we still enjoyed reading aloud. As they have begun to leave the house we continue to read books aloud as a couple because we love enjoying a good book or article together. Recent research suggests that reading aloud might not only be good with others but also on our own.


image 1 - COVID-19“N. T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann look to the Bible for wisdom during the pandemic” – When two wise and seasoned students of the Scriptures write about how to think Christianly about the pandemic it is worth paying attention. Both N. T. Wright and Walter Brueggemann are renowned biblical scholars of the New Testament and Old Testament respectively and both have written about recent works, God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and Its Aftermath (Wright) and Virus as a Summons to Faith: Biblical Reflections in a Time of Loss, Grief, and Uncertainty (Brueggemann) that Jason Mahn helpfully reviews in The Christian Century.


Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill“Book review: The Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill. By Robyn Wrigley-Carr – Evelyn Underhill is one of those unique authors from an earlier era whose writings continue to have relevance in our own day and time. Perhaps best known for her important work Mysticism, Underhill moved from an open-ended psychological spirituality to a deeper yet more rooted approach to the spiritual life  as evidenced by her works Worship and Concerning the Inner Life. Underhill’s words continue to speak to us today about prayer and also have set the stage for evangelical engagement with spiritual formation and spiritual direction. With a notable preface by Eugene Peterson, Robyn Wrigley-Carr’s recent work The Spiritual Formation of Evelyn Underhill is a work I look forward to reading and is worth paying attention to.


Ravi Zacharias“New sexual misconduct claims surface about Ravi Zacharias” – There are certain stories I hate to mention but still know it is important to discuss because it shines the light on paying attention to and overcoming the dark side of ministry. This is one of those stories. Just five months ago we marked the passing of Ravi Zacharias, who has been Recent reports, however, show that Zacharias may have been involved in questionable activities, which are now being investigated by his own ministry, his denomination, and others. Stories like this remind us both to be aware of human failings, even in our heroes, and to guard the weak from being misused by those who hold power.


For the Health“For the Health of the Nation: A Call to Civic Responsibility” – The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and World Relief issued a joint statement and sign-on letter built upon an earlier work of the NAE called “For the Health of the Nation.” This latest efforts seeks to promote faithful, evangelical, civic engagement and a biblically-balanced agenda as Christians seek to commit to the biblical call to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. I encourage you to read and explore the website which has a number of very helpful resources.


Time Distortion“Why Our Sense of Time is Distorted During the Pandemic” – Here is an enlightening interview with Dr. E. Alison Holman by Jamie Aten, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, about why we often feel like we’re in a time warp during the pandemic. “Altered perceptions of time and its passing are common experiences of people facing trauma, as trauma can peel away the façade of the future, and interrupt the flow of time. This creates perceptual distortions such as feeling like time has stopped or that everything is in slow motion, experiencing a sense of timelessness, confusing the order of time and days, and perceiving a foreshortened future. My research suggests that these changes in perceptions of time and our views of the future may have significant implications for our health and well-being.”


Jefferson Bible“‘The Jefferson Bible’ Review: The Gospel, Sans Miracles” – Many have heard of Thomas Jefferson’s famous editing of the Bible, in which he rearranged portions of the New Testament into something radically different with Jesus less as a Savior than an insightful teacher. He called this project “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” but kept it secret out of fear that his work would be too controversial. With “his scrapbook of New Testament excerpts, the third president offered a dramatic revision of Christian tradition. The New Testament presented ‘the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man,’ he recognized, even if he hoped to sharpen those qualities by means of redaction.


Music: Johannes Brahms, “Piano Quartet No.1 in g minor, Op.25 4. Rondo alla zingarese: Presto” performed by Paul Huang, Jung Yeon Kim, Ole Akahoshi, and Jessica Osborne at the Seoul Arts Center

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 9 May 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 10.42.06 AM“The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK” – Seriously, you have to watch this video. I know, when someone says that, you may be skeptical like me, but do yourself a favor and watch the beauty of various churches of various denominations across the UK coming together to sing a blessing over their nation. You may also enjoy hearing this interview with Tim Hughes, writer of the well-known song “Here I am To Worship,” about the project.


singing“German churches stopped singing to prevent virus’s spread. Should Americans clam up, too?” – Speaking of singing…I had a conversation with a group of pastors about what congregational gatherings would be like after the pandemic. To be honest, it was a bit of an unsettling conversation because we jointly realized that a good deal of what we experience as corporate worship would be changed by physical distancing, mask-wearing, and the necessary precautions of cleaning before and after services in all spaces. Then I read this article, and it really made me consider something else: should we sing corporately when we first regather or not?


Ahmaud Arbery“Ahmaud Arbery, the Killing of Whiteness, & the Preservation of Black Lives in America” – I remember talking with my friend, Bishop Walter Harvey, in the midst of our work with The Milwaukee Declaration about what it means for someone who is white to see the world in the way someone does who is black. Of course, you cannot do that entirely, but we agreed that at least part of that new sort of vision is when you feel the fear for each other’s children’s safety in walking down the street or when your heart drops as you see another black life taken. This last week brought that home to me again with the brutal killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. The concept of whiteness is much debated, but I will go on record in saying what should be obvious: white supremacy and racism have no place in Christianity or Christ’s Church, and should be opposed in the broader culture. Why? Because each and every person is made in God’s image and valuable in God’s sight, but also because God makes space for “every nation, tribe, people and language” equally before the throne of God for eternity (Revelation 7:9-10) that should be imaged forth now on earth (Galatians 3:28). There is equal ground before the Cross of Christ and in the family of God. It is difficult to put into words, but I urge you to read this article by Celucien L. Joseph at The Witness. You may also benefit from reading Russell Moore’s “The Killing of Ahmaud Arbery and the Justice of God” and Andrew MacDonald’s “Don’t Look Away: Why Ahmaud Arbery’s Tragedy Must Be Addressed Head On.”


Pakistan sewer cleaners“Sewer Cleaners Wanted in Pakistan: Only Christians Need Apply” – “Before Jamshed Eric plunges deep below Karachi’s streets to clean out clogged sewers with his bare hands, he says a little prayer to Jesus to keep him safe. The work is grueling, and he wears no mask or gloves to protect him from the stinking sludge and toxic plumes of gas that lurk deep underground. ‘It is a difficult job,’ Mr. Eric said. ‘In the gutter, I am often surrounded by swarms of cockroaches.’ After a long day, the stench of his work lingers even at home, a constant reminder of his place in life. ‘When I raise my hand to my mouth to eat, it smells of sewage,’ he said. A recent spate of deaths among Christian sewer cleaners in Pakistan underscores how the caste discrimination that once governed the Indian subcontinent’s Hindus lingers, no matter the religion.”


Thomas Lynch“Death Without Ceremony: We need time and space to grieve. The pandemic denies us this.” – American poet, essayist, and undertaker, Thomas Lynch, at The Atlantic: “Faith, we are told, inoculates against fear. We are all in this together, the president says. I wonder. Though I was named after my father’s dead uncle, my faith has been shaken into a provisional pose. Rather than serve a bishop or church, I chose, like my father, ‘to serve the living by caring for the dead.’ Some days it seems obvious that a loving God’s in charge; others it seems we are entirely alone.”


117211“Letter Writing Isn’t a Lost Art in Egypt. It’s an Ancient Ministry.” – I was beginning to write an article on the pastoral ministry of letter writing, when I stumbled upon this article about the ancient and present ministry of letter writing in the Egyptian Coptic church. “In his rural New Jersey home, Wafik Habib carefully laid out his letter collection before us, now more than a half century old. Handwritten by the late Bishop Samuel to the physician, they represented the bishop’s pastoral care to a nascent diaspora Christian community started in 1950s North America. We could sense the bishop’s presence in the words of comfort and exhortation set to pen and paper.”


black hole“Astronomers Discover the Closest Known Black Hole” – Since I was a young child, I have been fascinated by astronomy. Black holes are one of those most fascinating objects, not only because of the 1979 Disney movie, but because of the fascinating impact black holes have on space and time. Now astronomers have discovered the closest known black hole to our solar system. “The pair of stars in a system called HR 6819 is so close to us that on a clear night in the Southern Hemisphere, a person might be able to spot them without a telescope. What that stargazer wouldn’t see, though, is the black hole hiding right there in the constellation Telescopium. At just 1,000 light-years away, it is the closest black hole to Earth ever discovered, and it could help scientists find the rest of the Milky Way’s missing black holes.


ECPAChristianBookAward“Christian Book Awards 2020” – The Christian Book Awards for 2020 were announced this past week. I was not familiar with most of the titles, other than Harold L. Senkbeil’s The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s HeartThe book of the year award went to Mark Vroegop’s Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament, which is an important topic that many of us are talking about right now.


Music: Cannonball Adderley Quintet, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]